We all have a dream house, a place where we’d like to live if we had enough money to buy it and enough time to really enjoy it. But then there are the realities of house hunting, where we discover that the chances of finding the 100% house of our dreams is much harder than we thought it would be.
So where do you start so that you can get most of the way there? Well, stop one is your lender, where you find out exactly how much house you can afford. This is where you give out all the financial information about yourself and apply for a mortgage.
Once you have a pre-approval letter in hand, you call your real estate agent and say you’re ready to shop. By the way, that’s really what the process is: you’re shopping for a home.
Your expectations are based on what you like.
You expect it to have a certain appearance, a certain amount of space, and certain amenities. Sometimes you base your expectations on the home you grew up in, or a friend’s home that you particularly liked, or something you found in a home magazine or on television, or a model house or condo that you visited.
You make a list of what you have in mind, and you have a whole portfolio of photos in your phone that shows what you like. You pass all of this information, along with your price point, to your real estate agent, who promptly goes to work sorting through what’s available in the city or town you want to live in.
You have, of course, checked out Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and several other sites and found dozens of homes that appear to be available and will fit your criteria.
Your selection will be based on reality.
You also give that list to your realtor and are amazed to discover that of the 3 dozen homes you have located, only 3 are currently available. That’s because those websites, although they are valuable sources of real estate information, are often behind the currently available listings by up to 120 days.
But don’t let that throw you. Your agent will help you find homes that work. The most important facet of the search will have to be price, so that you are comfortable with the monthly payments.
There are always additional expenses.
In addition, you want to consider the expenses that are part of owning any home. There will be items that have to be repaired at some point. Here in Florida we always think about air conditioning. Average lifespan of a unit is 10 years.
If you’re buying a single family home, pay attention to the age and condition of the roof. In a condominium, roof repair is almost always paid for within your monthly condo fees.
But in condos, just as in a single family house or townhouse, there are always inside items that may need repair, such as baths, kitchens, paint, and flooring.
With these realities in mind, you start your up close and personal investigation of homes that look interesting.
Three factors to consider: location, amenities, appearance.
You may fall in love with a home on first sight, or you may take a while before you find a home that seems right. But before you make a decision to purchase or not, carefully consider these three aspects of the home: 1. location (usually, but not always the most important); 2. the amenities of the house (what’s in it, what’s around it;) 3. the appearance of the house (the condition inside and out, how does it compare to the homes around it, how does the neighborhood compare to those around it).
In homes, appearance does not always equal reality.
If you’re like most people who are hunting for a home, especially for the first time, you want everything to be perfect. In re-sales, that is rarely the case. After all, people have been living in this property for several years. That means that nothing is new, even if the place looks great.
If it does look terrific, that’s a big plus. If it doesn’t look perfect, that may not be as bad as you think.
Great condition may not be perfect. Imperfect may be good enough.
The first room you’re likely to notice is the kitchen. If the counters and cabinets are not up to date, if they look somewhat worn out, don’t run away. Look at them carefully. Can they be easily upgraded?
Often, cabinets can be re-faced, rather than replaced, which keeps fix-up expenses down. Is the kitchen, and the house in general in good enough condition that you can wait from two to five years or more before updating or replacing anything?
These are very important questions to consider before accepting or rejecting a home.
Sometimes a home needs absolutely nothing because the owner has kept it up meticulously. This is unusual, but it happens. However, despite that perfect condition, you may not always like everything about that house.
Don’t expect 100% satisfaction.
And in general, no matter the condition of the home you decide you’re going to purchase, you will not be 100% satisfied with all aspects of it. Your real estate agent may tell you this beforehand, but until you’ve seen a few houses, you won’t want to believe it.
The usual statement of buyers is, “I’ll know it when I see it.” But after seeing several versions of “it,” you’ll understand the need to make some compromises. You can always make the changes you want later on.
Look twice for a better perspective.
Above all, don’t make an emotional decision. You may love a home on first appearance. But make sure you look at it again, very carefully, before you sign on the dotted line. In today’s seller’s market, that may mean going back again the same day.
But that second look will give you a far better perspective on the reality of this home and how close it comes to your dream.
Marc Jablon, the Jablon Team
Re/Max Complete Solutions